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'Washington Post' Writer Feared Dead; Limo Crash Kills 20; Kavanaugh Set For Swearing-In. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired October 8, 2018 - 15:00   ET




QUESTION: So, sometimes you are trying to steer him maybe to be a little bit more polite in his public discourse and to maybe be a little bit more sensitive to some of his policy...


MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY: No, I tell him my opinions, what I believe. And maybe in some of them, we don't -- you know, maybe don't agree. He will do. He was elected. So he's the president. But...

QUESTION: Have you ever told him to put his phone down?


M. TRUMP: Yes.



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Sometimes, Trump listens to her. Sometimes, he doesn't, but she says she has her own voice.

Kate Bennett, what a trip. Thank you so much for coming on.


BALDWIN: Let's roll on, hour two.

You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

As Justice Brett Kavanaugh takes his seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, the president is calling the accusations against the new justice a -- quote -- "hoax and false." This despite the fact that Trump called one of Kavanaugh's accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, credible and a fine woman.

And as the president takes aim at Democrats for what he says what they did to his newly minted justice here, he is also slamming them for what may be ahead, talks of impeaching Justice Kavanaugh. That is if Democrats take control of the House after Election Day, which is now less than one month away.

Listen to President Trump from just moments ago.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's a great person, and it was very, very unfair what happened to him. False charges, false accusations. Horrible statements that were totally untrue, that he knew nothing about.

Frankly, terms that he probably never heard in his life. He was this, he was that. He never even heard of these terms. It was a disgraceful situation wrote about by people that are evil. And he toughed it out.

I thought the way they behaved was absolutely atrocious. I have never seen anything like it, because the way they really tortured him and his family, I thought it was a disgrace. Now they're thinking about impeaching a brilliant jurist, a man that did nothing wrong, a man that was caught up in a hoax that was set up by the Democrats, using the Democrats' lawyers, and now they want to impeach him.


BALDWIN: Let's go to Sarah Westwood, who's in Orlando following the president. And he just spoke to this convention of international police chiefs.

And, Sarah, what was the response in the room when he talked about the hoax and the disgrace and fabricated stories?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Brooke, President Trump's mention of now Justice Kavanaugh to this room of police chiefs drew one of the most enthusiastic reactions of anything he mentioned.

And keep in mind that he spent about half the speech praising the work that the audience does every day. The White House had billed this speech as one focusing primarily on law enforcement and border security, but, of course, Trump took the opportunity to hit some of his favorite midterm themes, unemployment rates, fake news, congressional Democrats blocking his funding, and most of all Justice Kavanaugh, because, as we know, Trump and his allies have been hoping to use the bitter confirmation battle that we just saw unfold as a way to motivate Republican voters who might otherwise be complacent heading into the midterms.

Republicans need to make up that enthusiasm gap. They have been long lagging behind Democrats in terms of voter energy. Now, Trump will have several chances to do that this week. He will be heading to Iowa, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky for rallies this week.

And Trump also took this opportunity to put to rest a story that has, at times, threatened to overshadow his agenda, and that's tensions with his deputy attorney general. Trump from the stage thanked Rod Rosenstein for his work, and said that he had a good talk with the deputy attorney general as they were flying on Air Force One down here to Orlando, so clearly not trying to blunt the momentum that he thinks he has off the Kavanaugh victory -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Right, that report of that potential firing so three weeks ago. Sarah Westwood in Orlando, Sarah, thank you very much.

Brett Kavanaugh's ascent to the U.S. Supreme Court now solidifies its conservative-leaning majority with Justice John Roberts at the helm. So how will he manage this new high court?

With me now, CNN Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic.

And, Joan, how does the addition of Justice Kavanaugh now change the Supreme Court?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Brooke, it's a whole new court. And his confirmation changes the court's biography and its ideology.

And we will start first with what really makes a difference to people out there. And that's how they might rule on the law of the land. Justice Roberts -- Chief Justice Roberts now becomes the justice who's sort of towards the center ideologically, but he is no Anthony Kennedy.

Brett Kavanaugh succeeded Anthony Kennedy, who was the centrist swing vote justice. Judge Kavanaugh is much further to the right, so we can expect this court to be much more conservative.


Some people, Brooke, are casting Chief Justice Roberts at the center now, the middle justice, but he will be no swing vote. He will probably, at best, for the liberal side inch a little bit over to their side because of his interest in trying to steady the court. That's -- he will be the man to watch, more so than Justice Kavanaugh, as we go forward.

And another thing about the biography of the justices that people have pointed out, talk about their pedigrees. Justice Kavanaugh's addition to the court reinforces the Harvard, Yale, Ivy League makeup of these justices.

We have five justices who attended Harvard, four who graduated from there. Justice Ginsburg, as you probably remember, attended Harvard and then finished up at Columbia when she moved to New York City with her husband. And then, with Justice Kavanaugh, we now have four who went to Yale.

And then here's something new in terms of the sort of elite milestones of this court. We now have a full majority, five justices, who themselves were former law clerks. Chief Justice John Roberts was a law clerk to William Rehnquist. Justice Kavanaugh clerked for Justice Kennedy, as did Neil Gorsuch.

Stephen Breyer, he clerked for Arthur Goldberg. And that gives us -- and let's see -- Elena Kagan is up there. Elena Kagan clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall. As I said, we now have a majority on the court that not just comes

from elite Ivy League background, but came up through the even more elite channels of Supreme Court law clerks.

And then I know, at one point, we had talked about the religious makeup of this court. Justice Kavanaugh, who is a Catholic, succeeds another Catholic, Anthony Kennedy. And it's intriguing to know that on this Supreme Court, we have five Catholics, three Jewish justices, and one Protestant.

So really kind of different than the makeup throughout the United States, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Incredible, the faces, the additions and thinking so many of them having clerked for other justices, speaking of clerks.

Joan, thank you.

Brett Kavanaugh won confirmation by the slimmest margin ever for a U.S. Supreme Court justice, but now he will be making history in a much different way. He will be the first justice to be backed by all female law clerks. It is an achievement he foreshadowed in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month.


BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE NOMINEE: I had to, in essence, contingently hire a first group of four law clerks who could be available to clerk at the Supreme Court for me on a moment's notice.

I did so, and contingently hired four law clerks. All four are women. If confirmed, I will be the first justice in the history of the Supreme Court to have a group of all-women law clerks.


BALDWIN: Let me bring back Sarah Pitlyk. She clerked for then Judge Kavanaugh on the court of appeals from 2010 to 2011.

So, Sarah, welcome back to you.

You know, we have heard Justice Kavanaugh, you know, certainly talking about the women who deeply influenced him, as he was introduced to the country by the president. He spoke about also women who he's hired in the past like you.

What's your reaction to him bringing on all women clerks?

SARAH PITLYK, FORMER CLERK FOR KAVANAUGH: Well, it's not at all a surprise to anyone who's been a part of his clerkship recruitment process.

As he described in detail in his confirmation hearings, he has always, really since assuming the bench in 2006, he has always paid special attention to trying to level the playing field for the top echelon of legal opportunities -- or opportunities for law students. And he's done that by hiring more women clerks than any other judge, a

greater number of women clerks than male clerks, a greater number of diverse clerks than other judges.

So this doesn't come as much of a surprise at all to anyone familiar with him.

BALDWIN: And how did he treat you?

PITLYK: He was excellent to me.

Actually, I'm a pretty good example of something he described at his confirmation hearing. He talked about how one of the ways he tries to level that playing field is by looking outside the traditional, conventional pipeline of clerks, the sort of elite few professors, let's say, who recommend the most clerks, the people coming from the law reviews at the top law schools.

I did not meet the judge through the traditional channels. And when I met him, I was not planning to clerk. I didn't think it was consistent with some of my other life goals at that time. I was a little bit older than the average law graduate. I was married and I wanted to start a family.

And it was the judge really who encouraged me for the first time to think about clerking as something that was compatible with my other goals as a woman and a mother. And so this, again, is very consistent with my experience.


BALDWIN: So, you have this positive experience, but there will be, Sarah, there will be this cloud hanging over him. Half of the country is thrilled. Half of the country, though, believes that there is an alleged sexual assailant now on the nation's highest court.

How does he overcome that?

PITLYK: I think Justice Kavanaugh will make a name for himself, just as Judge Kavanaugh did, for even-handedness, for rigor, for attention to detail, for collegiality, for all of the things that everyone wants in a judge and a justice on the Supreme Court.

So I think that's how he will distinguish himself.

BALDWIN: And just lastly, I don't know if you caught some of the president's comments earlier. The president today called the Democrats' attacks against Justice Kavanaugh a hoax.

A hoax. Would you agree with that characterization of calling it a hoax?

PITLYK: I would not take any opinion on what's transpired as a matter of partisan politics or who's done what to whom in the process.

Politics is not really my purview. I don't know anything about the individuals who made complaints, but I know that what we eventually saw was not necessarily what they intended. So whether or not something was a hoax, I think you would have to parse, you know, exactly what actions he's talking about and who they were performed by.

BALDWIN: You are going to the swearing-in tonight. What do you -- will you have a chance to speak with him? What do you plan on telling him to just mark this moment?

PITLYK: Well, I hope to speak to him and I hope to just tell him congratulations and that I'm very, very happy for our country and for him.

BALDWIN: Sarah Pitlyk, thank you very much.

PITLYK: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, a new hurricane is churning towards the Gulf Coast. Could be a Category 3 by the time it reaches the Florida Panhandle. We will tell you when and where it should hit.

And stunning new details about the driver in the limo crash in Upstate New York that killed 20 people. The governor is revealing that the driver Didn't even have the proper license and that the limo had just failed inspection.

And later, Meghan McCain is back on "The View" speaking out for the first time since her father's funeral. Hear her emotional challenge to voters in this country.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin .



BALDWIN: NTSB investigators in Upstate New York will hold a press conference in 45 minutes or so about Saturday's deadly limousine crash that killed 20 people.

CNN has learned new details about the driver and the company that owned the limo. State officials say the driver was not licensed to operate it and that this limo should never have been on the road, because it wasn't certified.

It had just failed a vehicle inspection as recently as last month. Meantime, grieving family members of the victims are just devastated, devastated.


VALERIE ABELING, AUNT OF CRASH VICTIM: Erin was one of the most beautiful souls. She loved her family. She loved everybody. Everybody loved her. She had such a beautiful smile and just lit up the room when she came in. We always said she was FOMO, fear of missing out, because she just

loved to be with everybody and have fun and just be around family, which was probably the most important thing in all of our lives was being together. She was married. She was 34 years old, not 26.


ABELING: And her husband was -- just turned 30. They were married June 8. And we celebrated their wedding with all of our friends and family.

And this is just a tragedy beyond comprehension for all of us, including all of the other families who were affected by this.


BALDWIN: The victims, all friends, some members of the same family, were headed to a 30th birthday party for one of the passengers.

Polo Sandoval is in Upstate New York with more on this story.

And a press conference happening, Polo, at the top of the hour. But, still, I'm sure all of these families are just devastated, but furious to know that this limo was on the road.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: To that point, yes, they're devastated. They are heartbroken.

But now they are angry, especially the last few hours, of course, with this new information being revealed by the state's top executive, Andrew Cuomo, saying that not only did that vehicle, that limousine fail inspection last month, but also the driver who was behind the wheel, according to the governor, did not have the proper license to be able to drive that vehicle, to be able to drive those 17 people through this part of New York.

I can tell you that a lot of that anger right now is really coming from Amsterdam, New York. That's because there are many of the passengers of that limousine that were either from there or had some tie to there. So speaking to the assemblyman from that city a little while ago, Angelo Santabarbara, he told me that he expects the city -- rather, the company will be held accountable, particularly Prestige Limo and Chauffeur Service here in Upstate New York.

Of course, there are so many questions that will be directed towards that company.

In the meantime, we're hearing more of these human stories, the memories that many family members are sharing. I had an opportunity at the crash site to speak to the younger sister of one of the 26- year-old victims who was aboard that limousine.

Amanda Halse was traveling with her boyfriend in the back of that limousine. Her sister, Karina, went back to the site not to see -- not just to see where it happened, but also how it happened. This is one of those memories that she's holding on to tonight about her older sister.



AMANDA HALSE, SISTER OF CRASH VICTIM: Well, the last time I did see her was last Saturday. Me, her, and my mom all went to a flower shop in Vermont. It was just a quick little getaway, took about an hour to get there.

It was just a nice get-together for all three of us girls to have a nice day out. And I think it was a nice send-off, I guess, because that would be the last time I would ever see her in person.


SANDOVAL: And as we continue to hear more of those human stories, just a quick recap of the main headline here now, the governor announcing that that vehicle was never supposed to be on the road in the first place, but also that that driver was not certified or at least not licensed to drive it.

Still, a big question, though, Brooke, how did this actually happen? We will hear from authorities in the next hour. We will see if they have an answer.

BALDWIN: We will listen for it. Just awful.

Polo, Polo Sandoval, thank you so much, in New York.

Coming up next: a new hurricane on track to hit the Florida Panhandle, and forecasters say it could bring life-threatening flooding along with it. We will have the latest track for you coming up.



BALDWIN: Right now, Hurricane Michael is on course to hit the Florida Panhandle. It's a major storm.

The next 36 hours are crucial, because we could see Michael make landfall as a Category 3 with devastating impacts. In all, in Florida, 26 counties are under states of emergency. And Governor Rick Scott is warning families to be prepared.


BALDWIN: Coming up next: A writer for "The Washington Post" is feared dead after he walked into a Saudi Arabian embassy and never walked out.

Details on why his government may have wanted to kill him and how the Trump administration is responding.